Foodlink endorses BAG’s Declaration — ‘Racism is a Public Health Crisis’

Foodlink is rooted in the belief that food is a basic human right. Our mission is to leverage the power of food to end hunger and build healthier communities. Foodlink endorses the Greater Rochester Black Agenda Group’s May 19th Declaration “RACISM IS A PUBLIC HEALTH CRISIS.”

We acknowledge our role in public health and our responsibility to “address racism including reshaping our discourse and agenda so that we all actively engage in anti-racist and racial justice work.”

Hunger is a social determinant of health – and it is inextricably and undeniably linked to racism. When people of color experience racial discrimination in housing, education, health care, employment, criminal justice, business and economic mobility, they are far more likely to live in persistent poverty and chronic food insecurity; and they are far more likely to rely on the emergency food system. But food alone will not end hunger.

It is critical that anti-hunger organizations identify themselves as anti-racist organizations, and acknowledge poverty, discrimination and structural racism as the deep roots of hunger, malnourishment, and poor health outcomes in our community, and throughout the country. Only then will we begin to shorten emergency food lines and co-create the conditions that enable all people to feed themselves and their families in dignity.

Foodlink’s 2020 Advocacy Agenda specifically acknowledges the link between racism, poverty and hunger in its guiding principles. We will continue to use this agenda as our North Star to guide our advocacy efforts this year. But we still have much work to do to live out these principles, including building more diverse and inclusive leadership at all levels. We are committed to this work.

Thank you, Greater Rochester Black Agenda Group, for your declaration and your leadership. We encourage organizations and public officials working toward equity to review the declaration and share your endorsement with the BAG.

Report: Food-insecurity rate in Foodlink’s service area projected to rise by 45%

The food-insecurity rate throughout Foodlink’s 10-county service area is projected to rise 45% due to the COVID-19 crisis, according to estimates released by Feeding America on Tuesday.

“The Impact of the Coronavirus on Local Food Insecurity Analysis” details how food insecurity may increase in 2020 due to COVID-19 for the overall population and children by state, county, congressional district and each service area of the 200 food banks that comprise the Feeding America network. The report used baseline data from the latest Map the Meal Gap report, and calculated an increase due to the relationships between food insecurity, poverty, and unemployment.

REPORT SUMMARY: The impact of the Coronavirus on Food Insecurity

When the initial 2020 Map the Meal Gap report was released (using 2018 data), the food insecurity rate for Foodlink’s service area dropped to 10.9% — down from 11.5% the year prior. That equated to 136,610 people. According to this new report, the food-insecurity rate is expected to rise to 15.7% — the equivalent of 197,520 people.

The child food-insecurity rate saw a similar spike, from 18.7% to 27.2%.

The devastating toll that COVID-19 has taken on local economies has caused unemployement to rise to levels not seen since the Great Depression. Feeding America is basing its latest report on a scenario that projects a rise in unemployment by 7.6 percentage points, and a rise in poverty by 4.8 percentage points.

Prior to the pandemic, Ontario County owned the lowest food-insecurity rate in Foodlink’s service area at 8.9%, while Allegany owned the highest (12.8%). Both counties still bookend the data, but their rates have risen to 14.1% and 17.7%, respectively. County-by-county data is available in the chart below.

For the past 5+ years, Foodlink’s food-insecurity rate revealed that 1 in 8 people lived in a household that had limited or uncertain access to enough food. The COVID-19 projections now mean 1 in 6 people are considered food insecure.

Statewide, New York’s food-insecurity rate is projected to jump from 11.1% to 16% — a rise that will affect nearly 1 million people.

Foodlink issues statement in support of HEROES Act

Foodlink issued the following statement this week, in response to the House of Representative’s release of the Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions Act (HEROES Act):

The latest COVID-19 relief bill introduced May 12 in the House of Representatives provides many of the priorities we had hoped for to curb the sudden rise of food insecurity in our region — and across the country. Although Foodlink takes great pride in its swift response to this crisis, we have been steadfast in our belief that the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) is the most efficient way to feed struggling families, and boost local economies throughout the duration of this crisis.

By boosting SNAP benefits by 15 percent, and raising the minimum allotment from $16 to $30, more people – e.g. seniors, veterans, children, and the recently unemployed — will be able to put healthy food on the table. We were also encouraged that the Act includes a pause on rule changes that would slash SNAP enrollment, an extension of the P-EBT Program, increased WIC funding, and an increase in the Child Tax Credit and Earned Income Tax Credit.

Foodlink applauds the wide-ranging support that this bill offers to vulnerable communities, although we ask that provisions to help low-income households correlate to economic indicators (e.g. unemployment rate) rather than arbitrary time limits – or be made permanent. We also stand by our colleagues at Feeding America who have advocated for increased storage and distribution funding for The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP), which provides vital support to Foodlink and our entire hunger-relief network.

While we expect a spirited debate over this legislation in Congress, the millions of Americans who are skipping meals on a daily basis due to this crisis deserve a quick response from our elected leaders. On behalf of the thousands of food-insecure people throughout our service area, we urge swift passage of the HEROES Act.

Foodlink urging supporters to become SNAP advocates

Foodlink and anti-hunger organizations across the country continue to plead their case to Congress this week — asking for critical support to federal nutrition assistance progams to help feed families and boost the economy during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Foodlink joined two of its neighboring food banks in writing a guest essay in various publications about its priorities in the next Coronavirus relief package. Thus far, legislation passed in the first three relief bills has given much-needed aid to low-income Americans in the short term — including boosts to SNAP in March and April. Anti-hunger advocates, however, would like to see the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) strengthened in two key ways — and throughout the duration of the economic downturn:

• Increasing SNAP benefits for all recipients by at least 15 percent.

• Increasing the SNAP minimum benefit from $16 to $30.

Foodlink is also advocating for a boost in funding in The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP). The program, administered through the USDA, provides American-grown products to food banks nationwide, as well as storage and distribution funding. The products procured through TEFAP are free of charge for member agencies.

The Feeding America network will continue to need additional food and funds from the government to help meet increased need. Feeding America has analyzed the potential impact of the pandemic and predicts up to an additional 17.1 million people could experience food insecurity, many for the first time. This represents a 46 percent increase from the 37 million who were food insecure prior to the outbreak of the pandemic.

In New York alone, 3,189,000 New Yorkers may face hunger this year, many for the first time— an increase of 1,023,000 people because of the pandemic. This would increase the rate of food insecurity by 47 percent raising the rate of food insecurity in New York to 16.3% percent.

For every meal provided by food banks, SNAP provides nine – a testament to just how much more effective and efficient SNAP is to increase food security and stimulate local economies. Every dollar spent in SNAP benefits helps generate between $1.50 and $1.80 in economic activity. Increasing the SNAP maximum benefit by 15 percent would stimulate our state’s economy and ensure New Yorker’s hunger have access to the meals they need.

If you would like to be a SNAP advocate, call your Congressman this week and ask that he supports increases to SNAP to feed our neighbors, and help our economy.

May 5 is #GivingTuesdayNow worldwide

Nonprofits nourish, enrich and improve our lives — and right now they are carrying us through the worst global crisis of our lifetime.

At Foodlink, we dove in headfirst into this crisis and responded immediately – because that’s our moral obligation, and what our mission is all about. What’s more — we had faith that this community would come through for us . And you have … in a BIG way.

You’ve opened your hearts. You’ve donated. You’ve bravely volunteered.

May 5 has been deemed #GivingTuesdayNow, a new global day of giving and unity in response to the unprecedented need caused by COVID-19. It is a day for everyone to remember and acknow,edge how critical nonprofits are to our lives, our communities, and our economy. Today, we at Foodlink are urging you to remember our partner nonprofits leading the way and to offer them your support.

Need a few ideas?

Consider donating to your local food pantry, meal program, or shelter. You can find them by visiting 211lifeline.org. (And while you’re there, consider donating directly to 2-1-1, too!).

If you want to support the community, but don’t know where to begin, visit the United Way of Greater Rochester and donate to their general fund or Community Crisis Fund. You can count on them to faithfully steward your dollars to an area of high need.

And if you can’t give on Tuesday … don’t worry about it! Give tomorrow. Or the next day.

And if you’re not in a position to donate, that’s OK, too. There’s other important ways to help. Follow Monroe County Executive Adam Bello’s recommendation and “Take 5” and care for a neighbor or loved one. Stay home and do your part in keeping yourself and others healthy.

Foodlink has been blessed with so much support in recent weeks. Our service to the community, however, only happens through the support and collaboration with our nonprofit partners. We hope you’ll consider supporting them, as they continue to support all of us.

SNAP-Ed New York launches new website

Save Time, Save Money, Eat Healthy.

Small changes can make a big difference. SNAPEdNY.org is a one-stop destination for providing those in need with the tools to shop for and cook healthy meals while on a limited budget. The new website is designed with the current times in mind, providing low-cost recipes, simple cooking videos, interactive lessons and tons of ways to save time, save money and eat healthy.

COVID-19 is creating financial hardships and challenging times for so many members of our community. It’s important to know that SNAP-Ed New York teams across the state are here to help you. The newly launched website features monthly recipes that are simple, low cost and easy to make. Recipes can be printed or downloaded with a full shopping list to make life a little bit easier.

“During these unprecedented times we are very aware of the struggles that are existing within our communities,” said Maggie McHugh, SNAP-Ed NY Project Manager. “Job insecurity, food insecurity, family and financial struggles are happening with so many of our neighbors. SNAP-Ed in the Northern Finger Lakes region, and around the state, are working hard to connect with those who need it. The new website www.snapedny.org is a small change that may make a big difference during this time.”

While visiting the website you can watch a cooking video on how to make your own salad dressing, get your kids involved in cooking, take part in a virtual lesson and/or find tips on how to eat healthy on a budget. There is something for everyone, including a map that will help you locate an educator and program in your area.

“Eating healthy and exercising regularly are simple methods for decreasing the likelihood of chronic health conditions like Type 2 Diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, and obesity,” said Lisa Irving, NYS Coordinator of SNAP Nutrition Education and Outreach, OTDA. “The SNAP-Ed program is committed to ensuring New Yorkers have access to quality resources that promote healthy eating and good nutrition. This website will help educate New Yorkers on the basic steps they can take toward healthier lifestyles, helping to improve the wellness of individuals and families.”

SNAP-Ed NY empowers you to make nutritious food choices within a limited budget and choose physically active lifestyles. SNAP-Ed New York in the Northern Finger Lakes region operates under Cornell Cooperative Extension in Wayne, Monroe, and Cayuga Counties and Foodlink. The diverse team of educators can be found working with schools, families, community agencies and local government to provide you with tools and tips to keep you, your family and your neighbor healthy now and in the future. Visit the new website and tell us what you think!

SNAP-Ed New York is a federally funded evidence-based program that helps people lead healthier lives. SNAP-Ed Nutrition Education is FREE to all individuals who qualify for and/or receive benefits through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). SNAP-Ed teaches people using or eligible for SNAP about good nutrition, how to make their food dollars stretch further and the importance of being physically active. SNAP-Ed NY provides nutrition education lessons, materials and sponsors education events and classes in communities across New York State. Visit www.snapedny.org to find a program in your community.